Trial By Media Scott Amedure Murder True Story

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Trial By Media Scott Amedure Murder True Story

Netflix adds another true crime series to its roster with its latest six-part documentary Trial By Media. Produced by CNN, The New Yorker’s Jeffrey Toobin, George Clooney, and Grant Heslov, the series highlights six high-profile criminal cases largely impacted or exacerbated by the media’s coverage of them. While the string that holds the six disparate cases together is rather loosely threaded, Trial By Media calls tragic and gripping cases from the archives back to public attention. The first episode in the docuseries examines the murder of 32-year-old Scott Amedure by his friend Jonathan Schmitz, which occurred three days after Scott revealed he had a secret crush on Jonathan on The Jenny Jones Show.

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The Jenny Jones Show was a daytime tabloid talk show that ran for 12 years, between 1991 and 2003. Low ratings in early seasons led the show to pivot to voyeuristic, exploitative content, inspired by successes from talk show hosts such as Jerry Springer and Maury Povich. For example, Jenny Jones would bring in a woman who slept with a married man and his wife, encouraging them to confront one another in front of her live studio audience. She’d surprise a couple with paternity test results on air, have spouses reveal affairs and break up with their partners, bring in unruly teenagers who needed disciplining, and reveal secret same-sex crushes.

The first episode of Trial By Media examines such a segment that was shot for The Jenny Jones Show on March 6, 1995, but never aired because of the devastating aftermath of the events filmed for the program. The unaired episode begins with Jones asking Scott Amedure to tell the audience about his fantasies involving the 24-year-old Schmitz, who was backstage at the time, unable to hear, and clueless as to who might be waiting to reveal themself to him. After Amedure is pressed to reveal a fantasy that involves Schmitz, a hammock, strawberries, and whipped cream, Jones brings out Schmitz, who awkwardly embraces Amedure before he sits down. After Jones reveals it to be Amedure who has the secret crush and plays back the audio of Amedure’s explicit fantasies, Schmitz professes his “complete heterosexuality,” smiling forcibly and laughing uncomfortably. The clip never aired on television.

Amedure, Schmitz, and their mutual friend Donna on Jenny Jones.

Netflix

Three days after Amedure and Schmitz flew home together to Detroit from Chicago following the episode’s taping, Schmitz showed up at Amedure’s mobile home to inquire about whether a suggestive note left on his driveway was from Amedure. When Amedure admitted it was, Schmitz went to his car and returned to the door with a newly purchased 12-gauge shotgun. Schmitz shot Amedure twice in the chest and killed him. He immediately called 911 to turn himself in. During the call Schmitz is asked why he shot Amedure, to which he replies “Because he played a very fucking bad thing on me. He took me on Jenny Jones.”

Jonathan Schmitz was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 25 to 50 years in prison in 1996. That verdict was overturned due to jury selection errors, but Schmitz was retried in 1999, and his second trial resulted in the same sentence. Netflix’s episode focuses on the highly-publicized 1999 trial in which the Amedure family sued The Jenny Jones Show for its ambush tactics and their negligence that led to Scott’s death. The trial aired in its entirety on Court TV at the time and created a national media frenzy. It ultimately found the producers of The Jenny Jones Show negligent and awarded $25 million dollars to the Amedure family. But this ruling was reversed on appeal, as the court found that Amedure’s murder was completely unpredictable. Despite the show’s cruel sensationalism and surprise tactics, it “had no duty to anticipate and prevent the act of murder”. The Amedure family never received any compensation for Scott’s death.

jenny jones on trial

Jenny Jones on the stand.

Netflix

Jones’s show remained on air until 2003, and she remained steadfast in the show’s innocence in the death of Scott Amedure. She blamed the media for sensationalizing the story, and declined to participate in Netflix’s Trial By Media.

Jonathan Schmitz got out of jail in 2017 at the age of 47, after serving 22 years. At the time, Scott Amedure’s older brother, Frank Amedure Jr., who is featured heavily in the first episode of Trial By Media, told the Detroit Free Press that he was troubled by the parole decision. “I wanted assurance that the decision was not based on just good behavior in prison,” he said. “I’d like to know that he learned something, that he’s a changed man, is no longer homophobic and has gotten psychological care.” Schmitz declined to talk to Netflix for the episode.

Lauren Kranc is an editorial assistant at Esquire and Masters student at New York University.

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